Hydrapak Jolla Review

by Brian Mullin on January 2, 2011

The new Jolla hydration pack from Hydrapak is a comfortable pack, with great carrying capacity, excellent features, the best reservoir in the business and the nicest designed set of pockets I have used. The Jolla is part of Hydrapak’s new Pro Series. The Pro Series constitutes their best design philosophy, features, materials and construction.

Features

Surge Valve
The foremost new feature for me as a longtime Hydrapak user, is that they finally solved their heinously leaky bite valve! The updated Surge Valve doesn’t leak, has a twist shutoff, an adjustable angled elbow, which bites and draws well, and just plain rocks. It can be somewhat difficult to operate the valve with gloved hands, but it’s a pretty minor issue.

Quantum Clip
The drinking hose also attaches with an innovative system called the Quantum Clip (no more Velcro), which uses a magnet clip on the hose, and an adjoining metal piece on the chest compression strap. It takes a bit of practice to get used to the system, but you just drop the hose clip easily on the proper spot with a distinct snap. It also prevents the hose from flopping around when you are bouncing along on rough terrain, which I had always found a bit annoying with hydration packs, in fact, I used to tuck the bite valve under the compression strap to prevent that from happening. One of Hydrapak’s statements about the Quantum Clip is, “keep your hose in check”, I am not even going to touch that one!

Reversible Reservoir II
The intriguing Hydrapak bladder system, named the Reversible Reservoir II is a variant of what rafters and kayakers use for dry bags. I have used dry bags for many years on the river as a kayaker, and they are a great tool and very functional. Of course they were meant to keep water out and not water in! The Hydrapak bladder is a nifty system that uses a plastic slider closure (the “Slide Seal”) for the top of the unit, and it allows easy fillings since the entire top opens wide. The Jolla that I tested came with their largest sized reservoir, with a capacity of 100 fl oz/3L. All the reservoir components (bladder, tube, bite valve) are made with FDA approved BPA Free TPU, which means no Bisphenol A (BPA), within the Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) material.

It can be turned inside out, which is a great feature that makes the cleaning and drying tasks a breeze, and it helps keep the dreaded funk from happening! It has a quick connector which they call Plug N Play that attaches or detaches the drinking hose, so it makes it easy to take the bladder out of the pack for cleaning and filling. Their reservoirs are being used in a few competitor packs, which is a great vouch for their innovation and functionality. I think Camelbak felt some of the competition from Hydrapak (?), as they just released the greatly improved Antidote reservoir, which does have an easier to use disconnect system, though it’s still tougher to clean and fill.

The reservoir compartment is accessed on the upper back side of the pack. The zipper that opens the compartment has an excellent length, and the opening is large enough, so it’s easy to extract and insert the reservoir. The reservoirs little attachment clip is a royal pain to un-clip from the packs hanging strap, and I much preferred their original quick connector buckle system from their older versions.

Impressions
The Jolla was a comfortable and highly conformable pack, and molded to you back’s contours, and didn’t create any pressure spots. The shoulder and sternum straps worked well and were easy to use and adjust, and held the weight evenly. The hip belt comes off the pack in a large swath of material as it rolls out over your sides, and is comfortable and stable, and was stowable if one is so inclined. I did find that the pack tended to flop around on my back, especially on rough terrain, and it liked to bounce up towards my helmet. Even cinching down the straps in any manner and variation didn’t seem to alleviate the issue, and it was exacerbated when the pack was full.

Mesh Back
The mesh backing is very resilient and pliable, so the pack really conforms to your torso, which allows plenty of movements, and an all day comfort level. Even with all the high tech air channels and fancy padding, I found that I had perspiration issues, and I got a wet back during most rides, which is common to this type of system. With larger packs, I am preferring the raised backs of some of the competition (Vaude, Ergon, etc.), which use a frame to hold the body of the pack away from your back, offering suspension, ventilation and breathability. In fact, their own Del Mar commuter pack has this type of feature.

The pack is made from light weight nylon, which has been amazingly durable for the abuse that I have put it through. They use a combination of 210D Baby Ripstop Nylon and 420D Double Nylon for the pack’s construction. The pack comes in all Black and Ivory, which I tested, and I found that although the lighter color can pick up a few dirt spots easier, it reflected the sun in warmer weather, and kept your back cooler.

Main Compartment
The main compartment is cavernous, with tons of space and some useful pockets and pouches. I really liked the front zippered mesh pocket in the main area, as it was the perfect spot and size for many items. I wish the rear pouch was smaller, since it protrudes out too much when filled, and gets in the way of packing and organizing, plus it needs a zipper or some elastic to keep things from bouncing around. The large opening is nice and wide, so it’s easy to find things, and put them in, making it a breeze to browse for stuff, though a slightly longer zipper for a larger clam shell opening would have been useful. The packs total capacity of 18 liters/1100 cu in was great for any season, and it allowed me to carry inclement weather gear and knee pads, and pretty much anything required short of an expedition or the kitchen sink.

Middle and Front Compartment
This pack is the mack daddy for its pure number of pockets, and it has so many that I sometimes didn’t even use all of them, which is a great problem to have! The middle compartment is really deep, and it gives one quite a bit of capacity, and helps keep the smaller items organized and easily obtained. It has two great zippered pockets, a Velcro closure pocket (perfect for a wallet), two pen slots and one skinny pocket. I usually place my small items in a baggy for functional purposes, but with the plethora of pockets, I could organize in any manner possible. The front compartment, has two mesh pocket, a key clip and has an audio hole, though I never have used one myself. It has two nice zippered side pockets that are made with some elastic material (for water bottles?), so it allows you to add larger objects than seems feasible for their size, but the lower side straps made it difficult to use them efficiently, so I usually put tools or items I wouldn’t need as frequently.

Cinch Straps
The pack has two sets of dual side cinches, that do a great job of balancing the load depending on the current capacity that you are carrying. When the pack was full and the straps were expanded out farther, you could also carry a jacket, armor, and other items under the straps. The top straps attached across the front onto a decent sized pouch made partially with elastic material, and the straps somewhat cinched down the pouch. You could carry a jacket or anything else on the outside pouch, and it worked great for carrying trail maintenance cutters. On the very front there was a small nylon strap for a rear night light.

Lifting Strap
An exceptional feature is the padded lifting strap, which helps you grab the pack with your entire hand. It has turned out to be a simple functional touch to the pack, which has added immense usefulness and just makes it a darn pleasure grabbing the pack to do anything with it.

  • Weight – pack only           848.3 grams, 29.9 oz, 1.9 lbs
  • Weight – reservoir/tube  148.3 grams, 5.2 oz, .3 lbs
  • Total Weight                     996.6 grams, 35.2 oz, 2.2 lbs

Bottom Line
The Jolla is a really comfortable pack, with many excellent features, such as the new bite valve, the Quantum Clip and the top carrying strap. The cavernous main, and the middle compartments were functional, and the middle’s plethora of pockets was highly useful and just darn superb. The pack is light, conforms amazingly well to your torso, and has a great fit and function. The pack tends to flop around on your back in rough terrain, especially when it was full.

Hydrapak has the best hydration reservoir bag in the business, period. This reversible bladder, greatly aids in cleaning, drying and filling, and is a simple engineering idea that is a marvel to use. The new Jolla is a pretty sweet pack, and it would be a welcome addition to anyone seeking a larger day pack.

Strengths

  • Plethora of storage pockets
  • Surge Valve
  • Quantum Clip
  • Bladder system
  • Top handle

Weaknesses

  • Pack flops around on rough trails
  • Middle compartment zipper snags
  • Lack of helmet net
  • Needs a longer zipper and opening for main compartment

MSRP: $129.99

Jolla Company Specs

  • Cavernous Main Compartment with Internal Pocket
  • Secondary Middle Organizer Compartment
  • Media Pocket with Dedicated Audio Port and Key Loop
  • Quad Compression Strap Down System
  • Dedicated Zippered Reservoir Pocket on Back Panel
  • Dual Side Bottle Pockets
  • Comfort Padded Should Straps
  • Soft Moisture Wicking Back Panel
  • Stowable Waist Belt
  • Weight: 2lb 6oz.
  • 1100 cubic inches (18.0 L) Gear Storage
  • 100 oz (3L)
  • 210D Baby Ripstop Nylon and 420D Double Nylon Ripstop Construction
  • Colors: Black and Ivory

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